Our Distinguished Panelists

E.J. Dionne

W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow of Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and university professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University.

A nationally known and respected commentator on politics, Dionne appears weekly on National Public Radio and regularly on MSNBC. He has also appeared on News Hour with Jim Lehrer and other PBS programs.

Dionne began his career with the New York Times, where he spent fourteen years reporting on state and local government, national politics, and from around the world, including stints in Paris, Rome, and Beirut. The Los Angeles Times praised his coverage of the Vatican as the best in two decades. In 1990, Dionne joined the Washington Post in 1990 as a reporter, covering national politics and began writing his column in 1993. His best-selling book, Why Americans Hate Politics (Simon & Schuster), was published in 1991. The book, which Newsday called "a classic in American political history," won the Los Angeles Times book prize, and was a National Book Award nominee.

He is the author and editor or co-editor of several other books and volumes, including Community Works: The Revival of Civil Society in America (Brookings Press, 1998), What's God Got to Do with the American Experiment (Brookings Press, 2000), Sacred Places, Civic Purposes: Should Government Help Faith-Based Charity? (Brookings Press, 2001), and United We Serve: National Service and the Future of Citizenship with Kayla Meltzer Drogosz and Robert E. Litan (Brookings Press 2003), Stand Up Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge (Simon & Schuster, 2004), Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right (Princeton University Press, 2008), Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury USA, 2012), and Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism-From Goldwater to Trump and Beyond (Simon & Schuster, 2016). His latest book is One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported with Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, was published in 2017 by St. Martin's Press.

Dionne has received numerous awards, including the American Political Science Association’s Carey McWilliams Award to honor a major journalistic contribution to the understanding of politics. He has been named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal and among the capital city’s top 50 journalists by the Washingtonian magazine. He was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dionne graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Harvard University in 1973 and received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.


Curtis W. Freeman

Research Professor of Theology and Baptist Studies & Director, Baptist House of Studies, Duke Divinity School

Curtis W. Freeman is research professor of theology and Baptist studies and director of the Baptist House of Studies. His research and teaching explores areas of Free Church theology.

His most recent book, Undomesticated Dissent: Democracy and the Public Virtue of Religious Noncomformity, was released in the fall of 2017 by Baylor University Press. His earlier books include Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists (Baylor University Press, 2014), A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England (Baylor University Press, 2011), and Baptist Roots: A Reader in the Theology of a Christian People (Judson Press, 1999). He is an ordained Baptist minister and serves as editor of the American Baptist Quarterly and serves on the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity.

Freeman holds both a B.A. and a Ph.D. from Baylor University, as well as an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Robert Louis Wilken

William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity emeritus, University of Virginia

Robert Louis Wilken is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity emeritus at the University of Virginia. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, past president of the American Academy of Religion, the North American Patristics Society, and the Academy of Catholic Theology. He is chairman of the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, the publisher of First Things. Among his numerous publications are The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (2013), The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God (2003), The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (1984/2003), and Remembering the Christian Past (1995). He has taught at Fordham University, the University of Notre Dame, the Institutum Patristicum (Augustinianum) in Rome, the Gregorian University in Rome, and Providence College.

Wilken received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His expertise includes early and medieval Christian history and thought, Byzantine Christianity, history of biblical interpretation, early Christian ethics, Eastern Christianity, Christianity and Islam, and Augustine.


Melissa Rogers

Former Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Melissa Rogers is a non-resident senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. She recently served, during the Obama administration, as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

She previously served as chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to that she was director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School. She has also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Her area of expertise includes the First Amendment's religion clauses, religion in American public life, and the interplay of religion, policy, and politics.

She co-authored a case book on religion and law for Baylor University Press, Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court (2008). She holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a B.A. from Baylor University.